Policy and Regulation — Page 8 of 10

The decision of a significant court case with relevance to regulatory practice was issued recently. The Chairman and Director General of the Sri Lanka Telecom Regulatory Commission were sentenced to jail and were required to pay substantial fines after being found guilty of criminally misappropriating USD 3.9 million from the stand-alone fund of the Commission. Because this is of relevance to regulatory practice, I wrote up a short note and am thinking of fleshing it out as a journal article. Suggestions and comments are welcome.
The Development Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU - BDT) took a significant step towards more inclusive ICT price basket (IPB) benchmarking methodology, last week. All member states will adopt the methodology in 2018. Our research manager Shazna Zuhyle led the sub-group which presented the recommendations at the Expert Group for ICT Indicators (EGTI) meeting in Geneva. 
I was pleased to that the journalist had chosen to report on how we obtained the data on the massive amounts of money lying fallow in government accounts. More researchers should consider using RTI requests to obtain data. “The money has been collected, and it’s in the Treasury not being spent,” LIRNEasia Chairman Professor Rohan Samarajiva said at the 2nd Sri Lanka Broadband Forum organized by the Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Ministry and Huawei. According to Telecommunications Regulatory Commission data he obtained through a Right to Information request, the government had collected US$351 million by the end of 2015. Sri Lanka’s Universal Service Fund is less burdensome on telecom companies—compared to other countries where a fee is levied from annual revenue—since just US$ 0.
Regulatory staff: Compensation & career development Rohan Samarajiva Course on Regulatory Design and Practice Nay Pyi Taw September 2017
Understanding the Myanmar telecom environment with emphasis on users Phyu Phyu Thi Course on Regulatory Design and Practice Nay Pyi Taw, September 2017
Presentation Rationale for ex-ante, sector-specific regulation Rohan Samarajiva Course on Regulatory Design and Practice Nay Pyi Taw, September 2017  
Managing relationships with Ministries and Presidents: contributing to policy development Alison Gillwald Course on Regulatory design and practice Nay Pyi Taw September 2017  
Unlike many countries, Sri Lanka did not impose a universal-service levy on customers of telecom services, directly or indirectly. One reason was the clause in the SLT privatization agreements that no universal-service levies would be imposed on the company. When you exempt the biggest player, you can’t then go and impose levies on the competitors. So that was an intended good result of the privatization. However, when the international telecom market was liberalized in 2003, the government imposed certain fees on incoming and outgoing calls that were to be kept in a fund and given to the companies which generated the calls when they provided documentation that approved rural infrastructure investments had been completed.
Agenda – Broadband Forum 2017 It has been a while since we have engaged with telecom policy and regulation in Sri Lanka. The Ministry of Telecom and Digital Infrastructure invited me to speak at their flagship event sponsored by Huawei. Our research has been on broadband in countries in the region. So the talk seeks to draw out the lessons from the region for Sri Lanka.
Course Report Regulatory design and practice Sharing international experience with Myanmar 4-6 September 2017 Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar  
Shazna Zuhyle, a researcher from Colombo-based LIRNEasia, a regional policy research body will chair an International Telecommunication Union expert group meeting. The 8th meeting of the Expert Group on Telecommunication/ICT Indicators will start on September 12 in Geneva. It will consider a revision to the current data, messaging and voice price benchmarks, which are used by international organizations to rank countries and built composite indices to measure development goals. EconomyNext report.
In relation to past promises, USD 1.5 billion may not be much, but I place little weight on promises of investment anyway. More significant is VietTel’s promise to allow roaming at domestic-like prices in the Greater Mekong Region. Now this too has been talked about. But not acted upon so far.
Yesterday, I presented at CPRsouth 2017 a policy brief on the disbursement efficacy of universal service funds. We presented two relatively easy to develop metrics (year-on-year disbursement rate and cumulative disbursement rate) and applied them to four countries, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The conclusion was that irrespective of country and irrespective of political and administrative leadership, the funds failed to get the money out. In India, for example, USD 10 billion had accumulated in the fund by 2016 taken out of a highly competitive sector and making no contribution to connecting the unconnected. We pointed out that any tax or levy imposed on an operator that is a regular payment is passed on to customers and serves to depress demand.
We love that people read our research. But we would love it more if they try to do justice to how real people use the Internet.
Research Fellow Vigneshwara Ilavarasan shared the findings of the demand side study on BharatNet in the pilot sites in an open seminar hosted by Center for Internet & Society, Delhi office. The study examined the absorptive capacity of potential and current users of BharatNet in the pilot sites and offered policy suggestions on the basis of empirical data collected through rigorous sampling methods. The talk was attended by entrepreneurs, anthropologist, programmers, research scholars and civil society activists. The attendees were surprised by the poor awareness among the potential institutional users of BharatNet and followed up with lively discussion on policy suggestions. The slide set from the presentation is here.

Zeroing in on zero-rating in Myanmar

Posted on August 3, 2017  /  0 Comments

Zero-rating is a hot topic in the ICT policy and regulatory discourse. When a specific application or content is zero-rated, the user may consume an unlimited amount of that specific content without incurring data charges. One school of thought believes that zero-rated content acts as an on-ramp to the Internet, others argue that it violates the principles of net neutrality by promoting some content over others. Mozilla funded research in seven countries to feed into this somewhat evidence starved policy debate. LIRNEasia carried out the research for this global study in Myanmar and India.